The key ingredient to more efficient early grade learning? Upgrading the qualifications of teacher educators

Perceptions of three teachers who participated in a training to improve the quality of teaching and learning in Cambodia, supported by GPE and UNESCO.

January 28, 2020 by Ilaria Vanzin, UNESCO
4 minutes read
Teacher educators during a training session.
Teacher educators during a training session.

Ho Sokley, Pech Kimthan and Noun Vuthy are teacher educators from Siem Reap, Kratie and Kampong Thom provinces, respectively. They are three of the 68 participants (over 48% of whom are women) who enrolled in an 18-week Bachelor of Education (BEd) equivalent – a blended in-service training initiative launched in early October 2019 in Phnom Penh to upgrade the qualifications of teacher educators working in Provincial Teacher Training Centers (PTTCs) and Teacher Education Colleges (TECs) across the country.

The Bachelor of Education is the first-ever program of its kind in the country, and one of the key components of the Strengthening Teacher Education Program in Cambodia (STEPCam). STEPCam is a GPE and UNESCO CapED1 funded 3-year initiative designed to support the Teacher Reform Agenda of the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport (MoEYS) on improving the quality of teaching and learning in the early grades.

Low student learning achievements in the early grades are a major source of concern for MoEYS. One of the major reasons behind these low student learning levels are weak teaching capacities, influenced by the fact that there is still a large share of primary school teachers that do not meet the level of qualification set by MoEYS. With BEd, the MoEYS expects to improve teaching and learning practices in primary schools for early grade learning.

Strengthening teacher capacity

Quality-driven capacity development is the overarching objective, not just for the MoEYS and UNESCO but for participants as well.

“I think the BEd is a very good opportunity the MoEYS is giving to teacher educators. This will allow me to strengthen my teacher trainer capacity even further” – shared Kimthan, who is 30 years old and works at the PTTC in Kratie.

“I am looking forward to sharing the new teaching methodologies that I will acquire with my teacher trainees” – added Vuthy, a teacher trainer at the PTTC in Kampong Thom, with almost 30 years of experience working as a teacher and teacher educator.

Teacher educators, learning together during a classroom activity.
Teacher educators, learning together during a classroom activity.

Sokley, Kimthan, Vuthy and the other participants are currently attending the first nine weeks of classes at the Phnom Penh Teacher Education College (PTEC). In Mid-December 2019, participants returned to their training centers and engaged in distance learning and action research. They then resume face-to-face training for another nine weeks during the second year, from September to November 2020. By April 2021, they will have obtained the much-needed qualification – a Bachelor of Education.

A new degree to improve teaching practices and children’s learning

Going back to school, especially while working, can be challenging. What motivates Sokley, Kimthan, Vuthy, and the other teacher educators are the tangible benefits they expect to see in their day-to-day work.

I am sure that through this training, our teaching methodologies will improve, allowing me to transfer this new knowledge to students, positively impacting their learning experience” – shared Sokley, who has been working in the field for 18 years.

 Ho Sokley (yellow blouse) and other teacher educators during a training session.
Ho Sokley (yellow blouse) and other teacher educators during a training session.

Teacher educators attending the BEd program like Vuthy, Sokley and Kimthan come from different educational backgrounds. Based on their previous fields of study and professional experience, they will specialize in one of the four core streams of the BEd (Khmer studies, Mathematics, Science, or Social Studies) for primary education, upgrading their credentials, teaching methods and pedagogical competencies at the same time.

They will also conduct action research in their specialized subject as a form of self-learning practice, thereby broadening their professional knowledge.

Improving teaching methods, particularly for early grade learning and classroom management, is a cross-cutting aspect within STEPCam and for UNESCO, set to help unlock a long-lasting impact within the broader SDG framework and 2030 agenda.

Ultimately, teacher-focused programs such as STEPCam can both support the education reform agenda and foster a holistic approach to SDG 4 achievement, tackling all key aspects within learning and teaching processes—from Continuous Professional Development (CPD) to improved infrastructures—to achieve the shared ultimate goal of improving the learning outcomes of young students.

As Dr Seth Seng, Director of the PTEC rightly said: Teachers are among the most important factors in [achieving] students learning outcomes, and teacher educators qualifications are crucial to deliver quality education throughout.

The curriculum and framework of the Bachelor of Education equivalent have been developed under STEPCam by the Phnom Penh TEC, with technical support from relevant MoEYS departments, UNESCO Cambodia, key stakeholders—including the Primary, Secondary, Higher Education Departments of the MoEYS—and development partners such as JICA.

  1. As part of its mandate to lead and coordinate global efforts for Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4), UNESCO prioritizes capacity development with the CapED program, which is one of its key operational responses to strengthen systems and assist countries to achieve national priorities in the context of SDG 4. The program focuses on three priority areas: sector-wide policy and planning, skills for life and work, and teachers.
East Asia and Pacific: Cambodia

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Every teacher in every picture is looking at a computer screen. Did anyone at GPE notice this? This may be easy and pleasant for all concerned, but I don't think it's going to produce good teachers.

Hello! How are teachers supported while they are in Phnom Penh for their 9 weeks of training? Is accommodation and living expenses paid for or do teachers need to pay for themselves? Thank you!

Thank you for your question Alex. The BEd programme runs for 18 weeks, split into two 9-week phases of face-to-face training in Phnom Penh. In between the first and second phase, with support from research supervisors and PTTC-based mentors, the participants conduct blended self-directed learning and action research on teaching practices at their respective PTTCs. During both 9-week training phases, each participant receives a bi-weekly scholarship to pay for food, accommodation, transportation, and other living expenses incurred during their stay in Phnom Penh. Regular meetings are conducted to check on the participants’ well-being, ensuring that challenges they face are addressed early and properly. Participants do not have to pay for tuition fees as the programme is run by MoEYS with support from GPE and UNESCO. I hope this is helpful.

Dear Sasha,
Thank you for raising this to our attention. Indeed, I should have been more careful in selecting the photos to provide a more realistic representation of the teaching methodologies adopted during the BEd. Let me assure you that teacher ‘educators enrolled do not spend all the time sitting in front of computers. There are a lot of opportunities for interaction, working in groups and teaching simulations that are part of the teaching and learning process. We agree that technology alone does not “produce good teachers.” The BEd is structured as a blended learning approach, combining face-to-face training with distance independent learning. For this to happen, it was important to ensure that the participants developed practical IT skills such, conferencing and cloud storage, etc. Within this context, STEPCam supports the MoEYS’s education reform agenda of expanding learning horizons beyond classroom walls. I believe we have realized the importance of these skills now that due to COVID19 pandemic, teaching and learning happen through e-learning.

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